Burish found niche as grinder long ago

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Dallas was a completely different club when Adam Burish was on the ice.


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When the Stars signed winger Adam Burish off the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup champion Blakhawks roster in summer of 2010, club GM Joe Nieuwendyk knew exactly what he was getting. Dallas was adding a guy who was a textbook role player in Chicago, a guy who was never afraid to do all those little things that never show up in a box score or on the stat sheet but that are no less important to any club’s championship run.

And in 63 games for last season’s Stars, Burish showed exactly that. Dallas was a completely different club when the 28-year-old Wisconsin native was on the ice. So, when he missed the club’s 2011 opener against his former club, the Hawks, last Friday at the American Airlines Center, his absence was big on several fronts.

One, he missed the chance to play against his former teammates, always a big highlight for the ex-Blackhawk. “Yeah, that’s to me always kind of one of the highlights of the year, playing against those guys. So just to miss one is always hard,” Burish said. “I’ve got to get texts from those guys in Chicago saying you’re scared, you’re afraid of us. Kane’ll say you’ve got the Patrick Kane flu today? You scared of me or what? Yeah, I take some ribbing from those guys.”

“When I get to play against them, it’s always a treat for me and you always kind of want to get the last laugh. I was glad the guys took care of business the first night so I could give them a little crap,” he said. “Then, they won the second night so I had to take some grief from them then. So right now it’s a push but we’ll see at the end of the year who’s buying beers this summer.”

However, by the time the Stars headed to the Windy City for the return match-up last Saturday at the United Center, Burish was back in the mix. He’s settled in nicely as a member of Glen Gulutzan’s third line, a group that also features gritty veteran Radek Dvorak and face-off specialist Vernon Fiddler. It’s a trio that at least one of his Dallas teammates have nicknamed “The Maniacs” and it’s clear this ex-Badger fits right in.

“Yeah, it feels good [to be on this line]. Playing with Fiddler and Dvorak, they make it easy. We’re kind of all similar players,” Burish said. “We all just want to fly. We want to skate. We want to get to pucks. We want to kind of be pests out there where they [opposing players] want to [say] get these guys off me. Get away from me. They’re always around the puck. They’re always on the forecheck. They’re fun to play with.”

And even though like every one of his teammates, he’d love to score tons of goals, this savvy veteran knows his value for the Stars lies elsewhere.

“I think that’s the stuff that wins championships. Winning a few championships, I’ve seen it. You can talk about it but I’ve seen it and know it works. You’ve got to have guys that are willing to do that. Do I want to score? Do I want to be Mike Ribeiro out there, dance around, look good, score all the goals and score 50 goals a year? Heck yeah, I’d love to do that but not everybody could do that,” Burish said. “If you had 25 guys like that I know you wouldn’t win.”

While some of his teammates are a bit more offensive-minded, he’s fine with the niche he’s carved out for himself as a grinder and role player. In fact, he’s so comfortable being in that role that he can’t really remember ever playing any other way.

“You’ve got to have different pieces. It’s something that we get excited to do every day. I love playing that way,” Burish said. “If I wasn’t playing that way, the game’s not fun for me. I want to be tired at the end of a game. I want to be worn out. I want to have my face cut up. I want to be bruised up. That’s when I feel like I’m in the game, I’m playing, you know? I know he’s the same way. To me, that’s hockey. That’s what we’re playing for and to me, that’s what wins championships.”

But that doesn’t mean that there wasn’t a time when he wasn’t quite the accomplished goal scorer. In fact, until being in a serious car accident at age 18 he was quite the offensive-minded player in his native Wisconsin. Of course, that all changed after that accident, something which Burish looks back on and realizes it was truly a turning point in his hockey career.

“After that I was like the whole skill thing is probably not going to work for me all that long. I kind of had to start over after that car accident,” he recalled. “I had to work for everything. Nothing was easy anymore. I had to start from learning to walk again. I think if I change my game or try to do something else, I wouldn’t be around very long. That’s the way it’s been for years now.”

He sees that experience as being an integral role for allowing him not only to excel in the collegiate ranks with the Badgers in his home state but to ultimately succeed in the NHL.

“Yeah, I scored a lot. I was in high school hockey in Wisconsin and I scored a lot of goals. But that’s the story for most of these guys. Growing up, you’re always the best player on your team but as you move up, you’ve got to find your niche to make it. I knew my niche was going to be kind of the way I play now,” Burish said. “That was more of my skill set than being able to score 50 goals a year. You’ve got to figure it out. Once you kind of understand what’s going to make you successful, what your niche is in the NHL, then you can play a long time, you’re pretty successful and can win championships.”

Now that his goals no longer comes in bunches, he admits they mean a lot more to him. In fact, Burish found the back of the net for the first time this season in Thursday’s 3-2 win over St. Louis at the AAC.

“It’s fun to score. I always say to guys I can’t wait to have the next celebration. I want to do something cool. I want to get excited, have a big celebration,” he said. “When I score a goal now, it’s always more fun. Every year, you always set goals and want to score more than you did the last year. Is 15-20 goals unreasonable? I don’t think so but that’s what you kind of push for and strive for. But you can’t get away from doing the stuff that’s ultimately going to help this group and once you do, you’re cheating yourself and your teammates. I know for me I won’t ever get away from doing that because it’s not fair to this group to change the way I play.”

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